This is a question I’ve been thinking about for awhile, and I’m eager to hear answers from readers.
Lots of people give advice about classroom instruction, but who should we really take seriously?
There seems to me some fairly obvious people who go on the list, like our local school administrators, assuming we respect their judgment (and, if our job is dependent on gaining their approval, in many cases even if we don’t respect it) and teaching colleagues in our schools, again, if we respect their judgment.
After that, however, it seems to get a little less clear-cut.
How do you determine what other educators you should listen to? For me, they’re more likely to have credibility with me if they are teaching in schools like mine – I’m less interested in listening to lesson ideas from teachers in more affluent communities. That doesn’t mean I’m not necessarily interested in connecting with them in some way or that I don’t think I can’t learn anything from teachers in different communities. It’s just that, for example, lesson ideas that require substantial resources, large amounts of parent time and support, and top-notch tech are not going to work in my situation.
I still remember when the Sacramento Bee newspaper ran an editorial several years ago after state test scores came out. A local high school in our district that had stringent admission standards obviously had high result. The Bee suggested that teachers at our school could become better at our jobs by learning from teachers at that school.
How do you determine which people you should listen to who are not in the classroom or working in a school daily? When I left community organizing after a nineteen-year career, I know that a year after I left I thought my “organizer wisdom” was at 80% of what it was, and that it was probably down to 50% after another year. Now, though I think I can offer some unique perspectives, anybody who depended on me for organizing advice would be making a mistake.
Does that hold true in education, too? If it does, since there are exceptions in everything, what would make a person exceptional?
How do you determine which researchers you listen to? There are a lot of researchers out there working education, some whom seem fairly clueless (like the researcher on loss aversion who as part of her study, in her words, had to “rip a trophy out of the hands of an eight year old”). Some economists seem to be fairly destructive, too. With all the research out there, what is a teacher to do?
For me, it’s different when it comes to more broader educational policy issues – desegregation, school funding, confronting the school-to-prison “pipeline,” dealing with implicit bias and racism, etc. Obviously, those challenges affect what goes on in the classroom, but it seems to me that, in in those areas, people can bring different expertise to the table and contribute towards solving problems with teachers. I’m also open to hearing that any of these distinctions don’t work, too.
This post is mainly me thinking out loud.
What do you think? I’m all ears!
Here are a few responses to this post I’ve received so far on Twitter:
I too worry about my “teacher wisdom” now that I’ve left the classroom. As a teacher I most was interested in the people who seemed to be most listening to *me*. Someone whose advice seems to respond to the specific needs of the specific classroom seems legitimate to me.
— Stephen Fleenor (@stfleenor) September 18, 2019
I like to listen to teachers who give me information about our students and what’s going on in their classrooms. I don’t like to listen to teachers who whine and complain. Not useful.
— Barbara Gottschalk (@barbgottschalk1) September 18, 2019
It’s often the ones not in the classroom who want to give all the advice. I love to hear from Ts who are humble, motivated, stand up for what’s right for their kids. Ones who take risks, try new things but know that sometimes what’s “old” can be gold. Advice from Ts who “get” you
— Kirsten Maxcey (@KMaxcey) September 18, 2019